Imperial Valley and Salton Sea

Aquafornia editor Chris Austin's slide show on the Imperial Valley and Salton Sea.

Three deserts and the fourth estate


Perusing a new water book in Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena last June, I found myself reading various passages (sample above) that were strikingly similar to descriptions from a series that I reported and wrote for the Las Vegas Sun in 2008. There was no right response and there were plenty of wrong ones. The story of which wrong ones I chose, along with some notes on intellectual property law as it applies to a steadily vanishing population of original reporters, is in today's Los Angeles Review of Books. Click on the comparison copy and maps to be taken to LARB. Map source: US Geological Survey.



The Dry Garden: Beware the foxtail


Foxtail: Hordeum murinum in Voorhis Ecological Reserve, Cal Poly Pomona. Source: Curtis Clark / Wikipedia

A romp with your dog in the garden or park should be a happy thing. Life affirming! Usually it is, until your dog encounters the wrong plant. Then it can swiftly become pain and suffering, first for the dog, then for your bank account. Inspired by a recent emergency room visit with a terrier after what seemed at the time like a picture-perfect Kodak moment in a meadow, this is what amounts to a pet owner’s Most Wanted list of plants that can harm dogs, which gardeners should remove and hikers should avoid.

Top of my list, and also the lists of veterinarian Nancy Kay  and UC Davis weed scientist Joseph DiTomaso are foxtails. Depending on where you live, these might be one of a number of grasses with needle-like seed heads. After a

Hoover Dam history at Huntington

Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer-prize winning columnist with the Los Angeles Times and author of ‘Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century,’ will be speaking about the Depression-era dam project that made the desert bloom and Colorado River delta die. Date: tomorrow (August 17th) at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Garden. Time: 7.30pm. Admission: Free. Click here for details.

Hiltzik’s book, which was published last summer, is not a water book per se, though the sheer weight of water involved caused earthquakes in the Mojave. It’s not even a desert book. It’s a painstaking history of the politics that led to the dam being built, the heroics and tragedies in the construction, and how the West was won, or ruined, depending on your view point. The picture, above, from the book, captures a failed early schematic for the dam. For an earlier review of this very

Hot news is bad news

Global temperatures for July 2011 were the seventh hottest since record-keeping began in the 19th century, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported today. The month was the fourth hottest on record for the US, with 41 states experiencing hotter than normal temperatures and two — Texas and Oklahoma — suffering the hottest. If one of the newer presidential candidates imagines that he can pray his way out of climate change, it merits noting that Dallas exceeded 100F for 30 of the 31 days of July.

California was among the seven states west of the Rockies to have normal or cooler-than-normal temperatures. Thanks to unusual Pacific currents, we’ve had a good water year after a decade of largely bad ones. While some heat is forecast, so far our weather has been balmy. Why worry? The best non-scientific answer to that question may be found in this lecture, posted by

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